Mr Blunkett also briefly outlined the UK Presidency's social policy priorities over the next six months and underscored the critical issues - active inclusion of the disabled and other long-term unemployed, promoting active ageing and eradicating youth unemployment - that figure high on the UK, and EU, agenda. Among the British Presidency's priorities are reaching a compromise on the hotly-contested Services and Working Time Directives, as well as delivering on the Commission's better regulation agenda of March 2005.

Optical radiation protection.

In response to questions put to him by MEPs on the Employment Committee, Mr Blunkett urged them to reach a compromise on a controversial 'optical radiation' measure that was up for a vote the following afternoon (July 12) in the committee. This draft Directive sets out guidelines to protect workers from non-natural sources of optical radiation, such as x-rays or laser beams. But it also includes 'non-natural sources of optical radiation' - i.e. sunlight. Mr Blunkett did not dismiss outright the sunlight aspect, on which a compromise amendment has been introduced allowing member states to decide under the subsidiarity principle whether or not to adopt this particular worker protection measure. But he did warn against crafting inexplicable policies at EU level. "I do believe that what are passed here in the EU as laws should be credible", he said, adding that no EU measure should be "so hard to implement" or "so contrary to common sense" that it becomes unworkable and come across as downright ludicrous.

Socialist MEPs were, however, due to block the amendment in any case, amid concerns that the sunlight aspect had been watered down too much. It could then only be adopted in plenary. Conservative UK MEP Philip Bushill-Matthews, a staunch opponent of the sunlight measure as bureaucratic over-regulation, meanwhile urged Mr Blunkett and other UK Presidency officials to "come in strength to plenary" and really follow the discussions at the European Parliament, versus merely showing up once or twice in specific committees.

Minimum wage.

In response to another question over fears of moving towards a fixed US-style minimum wage in many continental European countries, and over...

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